5th Sunday of Lent, Year A

We have two homilies by Father Hanly for 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A. The first is a wonderful homily on the day’s readings and the second is a beautiful homily on Holy Week.

Two Homilies:

“Master, The One You Love Is Ill”

“Master, The One You Love Is Ill”

In this wonderful homily for 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A, Father Hanly explains that the key to understanding the gospel about the raising of Lazarus can be found in the words “Master, the one you love is ill.”

Readings for Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A

  • First Reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
  • Second Reading: Romans 8:8-11
  • Gospel: John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45



The stories that lead up to the end of Lent, the gospels, and the beginning of Holy Week, are really some of the best stories, not only from the gospel, not only in the Bible, but are well known throughout the world. One reason, of course, is the great skill of the writer John.

Another reason, of course, is that the kind of material that John is presenting to us of Jesus the Saviour, the one who has promised that we should have eternal life, is someone that is more than just a story, but he enters into the very reality and the heart of our own lives.

Martha knows how to capture the Messiah. You remember how the story begins. It’s very interesting. Martha sends for Jesus, who is a great distance away at this time because his public life was over and he has settled quietly with his disciples. And he knows that he has been rejected by the chief priest and the Pharisees and the people that meant the most to him.

And so when Martha sends for him, she says, “Master, the one you love is sick.” That’s all. She doesn’t tell him to come. She doesn’t tell him how bad it is. And immediately you know that Jesus, who was fond in a very special way because Jesus loved Martha and loved Mary and he loved Lazarus and he used to stay at their house in Bethany, a stone’s throw from the temple of Jerusalem, when he went there to pray.

And so it is that the first word in John’s description of what is to take place is Jesus loved her. And that’s the keynote of understanding this whole gospel. It is love. Jesus loves her, Jesus loves Lazarus and he loves Mary, and he loves his disciples and he loves people, and that’s what he does. He has come to bring the love of God and to help them understand that he has come to show forth that love in the ordinariness of their lives.

And so it is he says to his disciples that he will linger for a while. And he has a very good reason for that. The reason is he already knows that the illness is very severe and he knows that already Lazarus has passed away. And so he waits, and finally he decides to go in the middle of the wake — the ceremony is really a burial — and then he appears.

And, of course, Martha rushes out to meet him and she’s a little annoyed because she felt that if he had come, he would have healed, like he’s healed so many others, he would have healed her brother and her brother would be alive.

And she says to Jesus,

“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”

She’s kind of hoping that he will do something very special.

Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”

And then Jesus said these words,

“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

And then he says to her,

“Do you believe this?”

And she says,

“Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” What does he mean?

He means exactly what he says. He means that he himself can give eternal life to all who come to him, but they must believe.

And if they open their hearts and they believe in him, they already have eternal life, because he is the Son of God, and God represents life, not death. There is nothing about death in God. He lives and His Son comes down to tell us that he lives and he continues to live after he dies, and we will live.

So death now becomes a passageway. It doesn’t become a terrible event that has to be some kind of wonderful thing happened. What Jesus is revealing to Martha, who loves him, is that all are destined for eternal life, that death is only a transition. It’s a movement. It is moving from one place to another. But death is not the end because Jesus says, “I am the way, I am the truth and I am the life.”

And then they take him to the tomb and he does something very strange. He mourns. And you say, “Why? If Lazarus is with God and he’s safe, there’s no need for mourning.” But he knows different.

He knows that when he passes from us and that we can no longer reach him in the ordinariness of daily life and goes on a distant journey into a darkness we do not understand, we mourn, because we have lost something. But our mourning is in faith and we believe that he has gone home to a God who loves him more than, perhaps, we do.

But what Jesus mourns for is something different. He mourns for the fact that this world is a rough and cruel place. And it isn’t God who has made it that way, but we ourselves. People’s lives are full of loneliness, full of difficulty. There are so many fears and, even in this day when we seem to have material things at our beck and call, our hearts hunger and sometimes fear and sometimes get lost in the malaise that comes with just being a human being.

We were created to love. That’s what Jesus says and that’s what the gospel says. Someone who loves you is sick and Jesus goes to him to heal him. It is the love story of God. God loves us, God cares, God is concerned, so much that He allows His Son to take on the pain of us, because only through the Incarnation could the pain of our daily existence be experienced by God Himself.

And to what extent? We will know next week when we celebrate the Last Supper, the supper of love where he says he will always be with us and, even though he will die, he will be with us, because we are destined for life, not death. And then he will be nailed to a cross and he will die. And yet they will remember he did not die in the sense of disappearing into the nothingness of existence. He lives and he is risen.

And, out of that, we begin to understand what we were created for. We were created for life. But in this world, there is one thing, in order for us to reach out to this truth, this truth that is true whether we believe in it or not, to reach out to this truth, we must put our faith in something besides ourselves. For our little world, we must put our faith in love with each other.

And for those who love and for those who have faith, we have no trouble understanding the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world. I am telling you what you really are and I am the truth and the truth will make you free. And I am the life and you must know that you might pass through many darknesses, not necessarily death, but the darkness of on the edges of despair, of disappointment, of feeling all alone, all rejected, everything that it means to be a human being, as well as rejoicing and praising God for the great things in life.

When those times come, you must know that he is with you and you must turn to him in faith.

Believe in him? No. This faith isn’t just believing that he exists. This faith is giving yourself into his hands like a lover to someone he loves, becoming a part of him that we might become truly like him, calling God our Father, sharing the spirit that he himself has given to us.

And this is the lovely story that is given to us today. It is to prepare us for the betrayal of the Saviour of the world, for the nailing of him to the cross through our own sins, and to put our belief that he has risen as he said.

And this is what the importance that John wants us to understand. In Lazarus, it’s the sign and symbol of the truth of every human being, that we are not created for a time, die and disappear into nothingness, but we are created to love God and to love each other and, most of all, to love this world.

Then why did he have such pain at that time? It seems like such a simple thing. And I’ll end with this.

I went to Jerusalem in the spring of 1997 and I’m in a grocery store in Jerusalem, of all places, doing some last minute shopping there. And it’s the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, when all the Jewish people come to the place of worship in order to repent of their sins.

And I picked up, in the grocery store, in the vegetable counter of all places, among the potatoes and the scallions and everything else that’s there, I picked up a little magazine that tells you how much everything costs. And in the back of this little newsletter from the grocery store, this is written, it’s the words of a Rabbi calling his people back to God:

“As the shadow of Yom Kippur nears, I fear that my Jewish people are in deep trouble. The source of my fear is this: God is crying and we are not there to wipe away His tears.”

And what he is saying is Jesus is crying. He is crying for all the people that were at the tomb, those who were wondering who he was and what he was. He was weeping though, most of all, because he saw the world as in need of God, and God crying to become a part of it and being rejected, and the world turning into something that He would have destroyed did He not love the people in it.

And the feeling that the Rabbi has, and the feeling that we should bring into Holy Week, is to love God and to be one with Him and to be one with His world.

It’s a responsibility. And it’s a responsibility that calls us to look around us and see what makes God weep. And see what makes not only God but ourselves weep. And look at the immense task of turning this world into a world that cares, a world that loves, a world that is touched by Jesus who weeps for Lazarus and every Lazarus that has been ever born in this life.

And it is the image of Jesus crying and knowing that his Father waits to have His tears wiped away, that makes this day and this celebration so special.

For it is in the mourning of Jesus and the weeping — he does not weep over himself, he weeps over us, that we might finally bring this world and bring each other to a world that it was created for: a world of forgiveness, a world of caring, a world not without its problems, but a world based on the faith of Martha.

Martha doesn’t say, “Do something.” She just says, when she sends her message to Jesus, she says, “Master, someone you love is sick.”

Holy Week: The Tears of God

Holy Week: The Tears of God

In this beautiful homily for 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A, Father Hanly looks at Holy Week and helps us understand the tears of God.

Readings for Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A

  • First Reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
  • Second Reading: Romans 8:8-11
  • Gospel: John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45

Written Homily

Today is the 5th and final Sunday of Lent. Next Sunday we begin the Season of Holy Week. A proper title for this would be “Holy Week: The Tears of God”.

I remember Jerusalem in the Spring of 1997, and I am in a grocery store, doing some last-minute shopping before Yon Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. I pick up an advertising handout lying on the counter. Tucked away on the bottom of the last page, I read the words of a Rabbi who is calling his people back to God.

His words: “As the shadow of Yom Kippur nears, I fear that the Jewish people are in deep trouble. The source of my fear is this: God is crying and we are not there to wipe away his tears.”

For me to find such a profound thought here among the cabbages and turnips, touches my heart and I ask: “Why is God crying?”

The answer? He weeps over the pain and suffering of the world, and nobody seems to care.

How could I have forgotten this? Is not our own Holy Week an invitation to us all not just to share in God’s glory, but also to shoulder God’s pain?

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday the streets of Jerusalem are filled with excited crowds waving palm branches, welcoming the Messiah with triumphant shouts: “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

Few notice that the king rides on a poor man’s beast of burden, the lowly donkey, and he rides to the place of his humiliation and final rejection on Calvary. The cries of triumph will soon change to shouts of “Crucify him!” and God, who knows the future, looks down and weeps for His only begotten Son.

Holy Week: Holy Thursday

“The Last Supper.” “You shall never wash my feet!” Peter is angry and ashamed that his Lord would kneel before him with water basin and towel in hand, like a common slave.

Jesus replies: “Peter, if I do not wash your feet, you can have nothing to do with me.”

The lesson is clear: God himself washes feet, and until the disciple learns that it is only in humble service to others, that we are able to touch God’s love, especially in serving the world’s poorest and most needy.

Yes! God feels their pain and shares their tears and asks us to do the same. It is in solidarity with just such as these that “the sacred bread is broken and the wine is poured out,” and Jesus commands his disciples to “do this in memory of me.”

Holy Week: Good Friday

Holy Friday is the cross, symbol of humiliation and death. It now becomes the manifestation of God’s great love for all mankind. Mysterium fidei. The Mystery of Faith: God puts his faith in us, and we put our faith in Him.

We can only look on in wonder and open both hands to accept the gift of his love with grateful hearts … God’s gesture of his concern for us all.

Do you think he is deaf to the cries of anguish that rise up from our broken world? The divine Lover not only hears our cries but he comes also to share our pain. Locked in his embrace we are healed and saved.

And finally, Easter Sunday

“He is risen!” Love conquers all, even death.

Easter is the explosion of God’s love into a world that is not quite ready to receive it. But God is ready, and we are ready. “The fields all around us are ripe for the harvest.” And so we continue his work of love in this world until that day when our work is done and Christ brings us home to our Father’s house, where “it is written” “every tear will be wiped away,” even the tears of God.

FAQ for Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A

When is 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A, in 2023?26th March 2023
What is the title of Father Hanly’s homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A?"Master, The One You Love Is Ill" and "Holy Week: The Tears of God"
What is the next homily by Father Hanly in this Liturgical Cycle?
Holy Thursday, Year A
Who was Father Hanly?Father Denis J. Hanly was a Maryknoll Missionary
How can we find other homilies by Father Hanly?By Liturgical Calendar or by topic or by title

Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A

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If you would like to use our transcripts of either of these sermons (updated 2023), please contact us for permission.

Father Hanly's sermon for 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A, "Master, The One You Love Is Ill" was delivered on 10th April 2011. Father Hanly's sermon for 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A, "Holy Week: The Tears of God" was delivered on 6th April 2014. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.

We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.

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